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Alumni Engagement

Practicing what she preaches: Nursing grad teaches personal development in former field

August 5, 2014

Five years into her nursing career, Stephanie Staples was burned out.

“I was trying to be everything for everybody and not asking for help. I had the superwoman cape on,” she says.

After graduating from the one-year Nursing program at Red River College in 1985, Staples worked as a geriatric nurse and opened her own in-home foot care business. As terrible as the burnout was, she made the best of it.

“It kind of became a catalyst because I changed my life and people started asking me what I was doing and how I was doing it.”

It was then that Staples began considering a career as – and underwent training to become – a life coach.

“I started helping other people live their lives happier and better and healthier. I started doing one-on-one coaching and then I started doing group coaching and then someone asked me whether I’d do a seminar. And then one day the Mayo Clinic called!”

Today, Staples works as a professional speaker and life coach, which she’s been doing full-time for about nine years. You might not think nursing and motivational speaking have a lot in common, but you’d be mistaken. It was nursing that set the foundation for her current career, as Staples predominantly speaks to those working in the healthcare field.

“People think what I’m doing now is so different, but it’s not. I went into nursing to help people and that’s exactly what I’m doing now. And I think the way I’m doing it now can help more people than nursing one-on-one. It was a pretty cool evolution.”

Even that assessment, however, makes Staples’ journey sound easier than it was.

“It takes a long time. It’s not like all of a sudden you quit your job and say, ‘I’m going to be a professional speaker,’ because nobody knows who you are or what you do and nobody wants you. It takes a long time to build up a reputation and credibility. So I dabbled in it while I got my confidence.”

Although the transition may have been slow, Staples knew it was the correct choice.

“When I moved in to this career it was so instant and so right, there was no question that this is what I was supposed to be doing.”

Despite a relative lack of formal education, she has excelled as a professional speaker.

“Other speakers, they have more letters after their name,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve had to let that go because now I know that I bring value; my value might not come in the traditional academic sense, but it comes and it resonates with people.”

Part of what resonates with people is her candour.

“I’m pretty real and genuine and I throw out all my flaws and all my crap. I’m so not perfect. I think that’s what makes me more relatable. I’m very unpolished and I’m OK with that.”

Despite claiming not to be perfect in life, she’s as close to perfect as you can get when you’re a professional speaker, Staples was the only female in Canada to earn her Certified Speaking Professional designation last year – a prestigious honour achieved by less than 10 per cent of all professional speakers.

“I’m not the highest level of [education in] my nursing career, but in speaking this is the highest designation that you can get.”

Staples has excelled in her career because she’s always challenging herself to think of new ways to share her message. Amongst other things, she’s written books, developed an award winning phone app for nurses, hosts a weekly show on CJOB, and organizes and hosts MoMondays, a monthly motivational event featuring TED-style talks.

In May, her commitment to bettering herself and her community was honoured with the 2014 Manitoba Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Contribution to Community Award.

She’s driven to do this because she truly loves what she does.

“Personal development is an ongoing thing. It’s not just, you do this for two years and get trained and then you’re all personally developed. I work on this every day. I eat sleep and breathe it,” she says.

“The great thing about teaching is you get to practice on yourself. So with everything that I learn, and everything that I teach other people, I benefit from it as well because I’m applying it to my own life and I’m trying and I’m failing forward.”

So what’s her one tip to live a happier, healthier life?

“Work harder on yourself than anything else. Stop trying to change the world. Just change you.”

When you do this, Staples says, your relationships get better, your physical and mental health improves, and you gain a new perspective. For example, think of something you can do in the next 30 days that would make you happier and healthier, whether that’s showing more gratitude, going for a daily walk, turning off the TV, volunteering, or anything else.

“You don’t have to do everything but you do have to do something,” she says. “One minute of doing it is better than an hour of thinking about doing it. Just do it.”

For more information on Stephanie Staples and her work, go to http://yourlifeunlimited.ca.

Profile by Stacy Cardigan Smith (Creative Communications, 2006)